Amherst Burial Ground: Berkley Street Series Book 9
Amherst Burial Ground: Berkley Street Series Book 9
Amherst Burial Ground: Berkley Street Series Book 9

Amherst Burial Ground: Berkley Street Series Book 9

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Shane’s time has run out...

Amherst, New Hampshire, is known for its lush landscapes and pastoral beauty. It’s also the home of The One, a hideous little ghost boy named Samson, who’s been dead for centuries and feeds off the life force of the living. His smile is as alluring as he is deadly. Now, Shane Ryan must destroy him before Samson grants the Watchers eternal life.

Shane is weary, depressed and in love with a ghost. If that’s not bad enough, his depression is leading him into reckless behavior on his job. He’s no longer a ghostbuster as much as a killing machine. He’s obsessed with annihilating the Watchers and their properties, one ghost and one human at a time. But his personal life is on a collision course with his professional mission and his friends are worried.

When Shane finally finds Samson, the encounter is cataclysmic. With demonic glee, the lethal specter relishes the thought of killing the ghost hunter. Fueled by hate, Shane’s obsession to destroy the Watchers and Samson drives him to the edge. As events spiral into a dark place, Shane realizes their end could also be his own…

259 pages

Chapter 1: Out for a Hike

Madison strolled along the game trail. The air was warm, a pleasant change to the cold winds which had ushered in May. She had found little time to get out and into nature, the demands of her law office and life in general cutting into her alone time. Madison chuckled at the thought.

Alone time had vanished with the birth of her son Felix, and her husband Mitchell still didn’t understand why she was cranky some nights.

Madison had been a self-sufficient individual ever since she had left for college when she was seventeen. Her marriage at thirty, and the subsequent offspring produced, had done nothing to curb her individuality.

Which was why on some days she ended up in Amherst for a quick hike. Her law office, located in Milford, was only a few minutes from her favorite hiking trails. She could take half a day, hike for a few hours, shower at her fitness club and be home without Mitchell being any the wiser.

Madison rolled her eyes at the complaints he would issue. While he had relished the idea of being a stay-at-home father when she was pregnant with Felix, the reality of it was far less entertaining.

Mitchell complained on an almost daily basis about how his work suffered. More than once, she had been tempted to inform him that a writer who didn’t get steady work to begin with, couldn’t complain.

She shook her head and turned her thoughts to the path before her. It was a narrow game trail, wide enough for her to move along without disrupting any plants growing between the thick trunks of the oaks and elms around her. The trees had a curious aura to them, and part of the reason she enjoyed hiking in Amherst. They were among the few, old forest trees she had seen.

This particular path, off General Amherst Road, was new to her. She had read about it online from a few blogs. Most of the articles had been about going to visit the trail, and none of those had been about the hike itself.

The whole trail had an air of mystery to it, and it thrilled Madison. There was no mystery in her marriage, no excitement. Nothing thrilling at her workplace. She had even considered a membership with the Ashley Madison website, in spite of the security risks attached to a site dedicated to extramarital affairs. In the end, with the pros outweighing the cons, she had decided against it.

So Madison was left with the trails.

She adjusted the straps on her backpack as she came to a fork in the path and stopped. The trail to the right showed more use, the dirt packed down and the branches of a few bushes broken and pushed back.

On the left, Madison saw the complete opposite.

The trail was faint, almost as if it hadn’t been used in years. Not even the prints of animals marred the loose earth.

Left it is, she thought, and followed it.

For nearly an hour, she moved along the trail as it skirted granite boulders and ran along streambeds. When the path dipped down she slowed her pace, careful not to twist an ankle. She had injured herself in the past on a lone hike, and the return trip had been horrifically painful.

Madison looked around as the trail leveled out and widened. The trees were farther and farther away from the sides of the path, and the underbrush faded away. Soon it disappeared altogether, but within twenty feet, it was replaced with thick, twisted brambles. Ahead of her, a dark shape caught her eye and Madison paused to look at it and get a drink of water.

A huge, flowering chestnut tree towered at the end of a small clearing. It was massive, perhaps a hundred feet tall and without a doubt, the largest she had ever seen. Unable to take her eyes off it, Madison walked towards the tree.

Soon she found her way blocked by the brambles. Madison ignored them, pushing her way through even as the long, sharp thorns pierced her skin and snagged her clothes. Around her the forest darkened, the long boughs of the chestnut blocking out the sun. A gray twilight wrapped around her and it seemed as though the brambles pushed in closer with each drop of blood she spilled. Then she was through them, stumbling into a small burial ground.

The grave markers were old. Tall, thin pieces of slate with arched tops and images of death carved into them. There were only twenty or thirty of them, standing upright in perfect order. Dead grass clung to the earth around each stone, and beyond the markers was a house.

The building consisted of a single floor, the roof sagging in the middle and a large, brick chimney protruding from the center. Heavy shutters hung on the windows flanking either side of the doorway, which lacked any sort of door.

And all of it was beneath the tree’s tremendous limbs. An entire world separate from the rest of New Hampshire.

Madison smiled, a warm, joyous feeling wrapping around her. It was then that she noticed the little boy. He sat on a rock by the doorway. His face was cherubic and his hair was pulled back in a small ponytail. The boy’s clothes looked handmade, and they were cut in a fashion Madison had only seen in history books about the early New England colonists. He seemed to be somewhere between eight and ten years of age, and he smiled at her when their eyes met.

Several of his teeth were missing, which gave him an even more endearing appearance.

“Hello,” he said, waving at her.

“Hello,” Madison replied, offering a little wave.

“Are you on your way to meeting?” the boy inquired.

“Meeting?” she asked, confused.

“To town,” the boy said, grinning. “Are you going into town?

“No,” Madison answered. “I’m just out walking.”

“Ah,” the boy said, nodding.

In a dull, absent way Madison understood she couldn’t look away from the child. He commanded all of her attention.

And she was fine with that, smiling at him.

He smiled back.

“What’s your name?” he asked, the gentlest of lisps in his pronunciation.

“Madison,” she answered.

“Would you like to know my name?” he said.

Madison nodded.

“I am Samson,” the boy said, his lips hardly moving as he spoke. His eyes narrowed and for the briefest of moments, there was a cruel glint to them.

Then it was gone and Madison knew it had been some sort of twist of the light.

“Would you sit with me?” Samson asked. “My mother has been gone a long, long time.”

Madison nodded, choking back a sob at the idea of the beautiful boy being alone and without his mother. A faint memory of her own child tugged at her, but it wasn’t enough to stop her from entering the burial ground.

The air vibrated as she stepped past the first headstones, the slate shimmering on the edges of her vision.

Samson’s smile broadened and he clapped his hands with enthusiasm.

The joyous look on his face quickened her step, and in a few heartbeats, she stood before him. Madison stared down at him, her heart pounding in her chest.

“Will you sit with me?” he asked.

Madison sat on the ground, folding her legs under her. A hard object pushed into her thigh and she reached down, pulling it out from beneath her. It was a bone, nearly a foot in length and yellow with age.

“You could throw that inside, along with the others,” Samson said, nodding towards the doorway.

Madison did so, the bone vanishing into the darkness and landing with a clatter. It sounded as though it had struck a pile of the same.

At the noise Samson laughed, clapping his hands again as he fixed an intense stare upon her. Smiling, the little boy leaned forward and said, “Are you excited to sit with me?”

“Yes,” Madison replied, her own voice sounding distant in her ears. Then she asked, “Are you excited?”

“Oh, yes,” he said with sudden, mock seriousness. “And do you want to know why?”

Madison gave a nod.

“Because,” Samson whispered, “I’ve been alone for an awfully long time.” 

Chapter 2: Remembering the Past

Shane stood on his back porch in the warm sunlight, staring down into the pond. He looked at the cats’ tails as they bent in the wind, watched the water ripple from the same. The water remained dark, impenetrable. Even after Vivienne had been chased away, there was no escaping the memories she had left with him.

A shudder rippled through him and Shane took his cigarettes out. His hand trembled as he lit one and returned the pack to his pocket.

The back door opened and Frank stepped out of the kitchen, a bottle of water in his hand as he walked over to a deck chair and sat down.

“You alright?” Frank asked.

“That’s a tough question to answer,” Shane said, tearing his attention away from the pond and sitting down in the other deck chair.

“Not really,” Frank replied. “You either are, or you’re not. Pretty basic.”

Shane shrugged. “Guess I’m not then.”

“What’s bothering you?” Frank asked.

“Everything about the Watchers,” Shane answered. “I want more information on them. I want to know why exactly they’re gathering up haunted buildings. How long have they been doing it? What’s the real end game? And I don’t feel like I achieved what I wanted, not for Mason and his wife. Not for anyone who’s died because of the Watchers.”

“How much more can you do?” Frank asked, his brows furrowed with concern. “Hell, Shane, you’ve taken some serious beatings. Honestly, you look like someone stuck you in a fire, changed their mind, and then dragged you back out over broken glass.”

“Thanks,” Shane grumbled.

“Hey, it’s the truth,” Frank said. “Why don’t we find someone a little younger, maybe some of Abbot Gregory’s brothers. They can start to dig around more. See what’s out there and what can be done.”

Shane shook his head. “I can’t do that. I know what’s out there, Frank. I won’t send them into it. The Watchers are my responsibility.”

Frank’s cellphone rang and cut Shane off.

“Hold on,” Frank said, putting his water down and digging his phone out of a pocket. “Hello?”

Shane waited as Frank nodded and said, “Yeah. No, we’re both here. Come on by.”

“Who was that?” Shane asked after Frank had ended the call.

“Hm? Oh, that was David,” Frank said. “You know, the naked guy in Borgin?”

Shane snorted, repeating, “The naked guy.”

After a moment he asked, “Just David?”

Frank looked away as he replied, “Far as I know.”

Shane sighed and shook his head. “He almost never goes anywhere without Marie.”

Frank sagged in the chair and turned his head back to Shane. “Strength in numbers.”

“It’s aggravating,” Shane snapped, pushing himself to his feet.

“We need all the help we can get,” Frank stated. “And she can definitely handle herself.”

“That’s never been in doubt,” Shane said over his shoulder. “I don’t like having her around. Seems like she still blames me for Kurt Warner’s death, the cop killed at Slater Mill. Not to mention all the emotional baggage.”

“On her end or yours?” Frank asked.

“I don’t have emotional baggage,” Shane grumbled.

Frank didn’t respond to the statement, remaining silent as Shane pulled out another cigarette and lit it off the first. As he exhaled into the warm air, Shane twisted around to face Frank. “Do you think today would be a good day?”

Frank hesitated, then nodded. “Might as well. My arm’s healed up. Marie’s in good shape. David doesn’t seem any worse for the experience up in Borgin. And you, man, I think you’re made of steel sometimes.”

“No,” Shane responded. “I’m just stubborn is all. Think David will want to talk about the Watchers?”

“I’m hoping that’s why he’s on his way over,” Frank admitted.

“Good,” Shane said, facing the pond once more. He glared at it for a few moments, waiting until he finished the fresh cigarette before turning away.

Shane knew she wasn’t around anymore, but the child in him still hid in the dark and whispered about her.

“What are you looking for?” Frank asked in a low voice.

Shane forced himself away from the railing and gave his friend a small smile before he said, “Something that isn’t there anymore.”

And with his back to the nightmares of his past, Shane went into the kitchen.

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